Obedience is a blessing because when one listens to others’ advice, one progresses. It is important therefore that parents and teachers play their roles properly. If children are not well behaved, then teachers and parents have not done their jobs properly. Children who submit to the teachings of parents and teachers will reap benefits.
However, the Buddha said that if a bhikkhu obeys with the aim of getting the four requisites, then it is not real obedience. Likewise, nowadays children are bribed to obey. This is not real obedience. They respect money and not the advice (Dhamma) nor the adviser. Such obedience does not constitute a blessing.
Obedience goes hand in hand with humility. Ven Rahula was known for his humility. In a previous talk on humility on 18 May, I talked about an occasion when he apologised for not keeping a broom although he was not to blame. Another story which I also related was about the humility of Ven Sariputta who, when told by a samanera he was not wearing his robe correctly, promptly adjusted it after which he asked the samanera if it was correct.
One should listen to advice given in order to get the benefit of this blessing. The Commentaries say that Ven Rahula once took a fistful of sand, saying he hoped that people who came to instruct him were as numerous as the grains of sand.
The Dhammapada says that many people give praise hoping for something in return. On the other hand it is like hidden treasure when someone points out your mistakes and shows you the right way.
In the Samyutta Nikaya, there is a story of a bhikkhu who, while bathing in a lotus pond, was attracted by the flowers and sniffed at their fragrance. A deva then told him that he had committed a theft in taking something not given, as smelling is taking the fragrance from the flower. The bhikkhu protested that he had merely smelled it while others ate the roots and fruits. The deva replied that it was no use advising those others who were already stained, but a bhikkhu was like a piece of white cloth on which even a dot was visible. The bhikkhu realised he had been guilty of attachment, whereupon he thanked the deva and invited him to point out any future mistakes. The deva declined, saying he was not his keeper and just left. The bhikkhu’s obedience brought the blessing that cut off his defilements and he became a sotapanna.
In the Jataka Tales, there is the story of the Buddha in a past life as a bodhisatta. The Bodhisatta was then a hermit. He crossed a river in a boat after which the boatman asked for the fare. Now, this bad-tempered boatman habitually quarrelled with his passengers because he only asked for the fare after the crossing. On being asked to pay up, the Bodhisatta said, “ I have no money. In order to prevent misunderstanding, you should state and collect the fare before the ride. Besides, it is not good to get angry.”
The boatman was furious. “Not only does this hermit refuse to pay me, but he’s got the nerve to admonish me as well!” Then he started to beat up the Bodhisatta.
“Stop! Stop!” the boatman’s wife intervened. “Don’t beat up the king’s teacher!”
Blinded by rage, he beat her too. Consequently, she suffered a miscarriage. The king, on hearing this, imprisoned the boatman. This illustrates how disobedience can cause suffering as opposed to obedience, which brings blessings.
- Meeting a Monk
This is a blessing because when a monk approaches a family, it gets 5 blessings.
- The happy feeling that arises on seeing a monk approach can bring one rebirth in a higher plane.
- One who welcomes the monk into his house, washes his feet and pays respect to him can be reborn into an upper class family.
- One who thinks of doing dana to the monk can become very influential.
- One who offers dana to the monk can acquire great wealth.
- After dana, one can consult the monk on religious matters and gain profound wisdom.
However, the monk must be a virtuous monk.
King Asoka, in establishing his empire, killed many people. One day he saw a samanera and was impressed with his calm deportment and serene composure. He was more so when the samanera, on being invited by him to take a seat, sat on the throne. On being asked by King Asoka to tell him about his religion, the samanera just said, “Heedlessness is the path leading to death; heedfulness is that leading to deathlessness.” King Asoka immediately understood and became a Buddhist, after which he spread Buddhism by supporting the Sangha and building stupas all over his empire on which were inscribed the teachings of the Buddha.
There is a story about Ven Sariputta before he became a monk. He was known as Upatissa. One day he met a monk, Ven Asajji who looked very serene and had a bright complexion. So Upatissa asked him what his religion was and its teachings. Ven Asajji had just become a monk and did not know much about his religion but shared whatever he knew. He said, “Whatever things arise from causes, the Tathagata has told their causes as well as their cessation. The Great Ascetic has such a doctrine.” Upon hearing this, Ven Sariputta became a sotapanna.
The point here is that the deportment and composure of a virtuous monk can be a source of inspiration for one who meets him. Thus meeting such a monk is considered a lofty blessing.
- Dhamma Discussion
Discussing Dhamma frequently at the right time is very important. Dhamma is very profound and is difficult to understand for both monks and lay people. Without proper understanding we could do something wrong (e.g. concerning a precept) and later regret it. Regret is akusala (unwholesome) and can bring rebirth in a lower plane. As such, it is important to discuss with competent teachers at the right time. When is it the right time?
- When one is depressed
- When one is restless
- When one has doubts
- When a competent teacher is available.
In such occasions, a competent teacher can counsel one according to the Dhamma and help one to cultivate wholesome qualities. This is indeed a lofty blessing too, isn’t it?